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A Bush vision of Pax Americana

National strategy, released Friday, calls for US dominance to expand global peace.

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After laying out what may be the boldest restatement of US national security strategy in half a century, the Bush administration is pressing forward to implement it in the high-profile case of Iraq.

The United States has been the world's only superpower at least since the fall of the Berlin Wall, but defining what that might mean, in terms of America's role in the world, has been taking shape more slowly.

The Bush administration's first National Security Strategy, released Friday, takes an unprecedented step away from cold-war views to confront a world beset by the likes of Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda terrorists.

More broadly, the 31-page document asserts American dominance as the lone superpower – a status no rival power will be allowed to challenge.

And it provides a reason the world should accept this state of affairs: the expansion of peace and more freedom. A Pax Americana will be "in the service of a balance of power that favors freedom."

Critics are already describing the new strategy as arrogant and dangerous – a far cry from the tone of humility in foreign affairs promised in President Bush's inaugural address. To supporters, it represents an overdue codification of America's mission of global leadership.

"It's a very far-reaching and comprehensive statement, and it's likely to endure as a bedrock element in American thinking in this post cold war world," says Walter Russell Mead, a senior fellow for US foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

On one thing analysts on both sides agree: In many ways it merely makes explicit what has been US practice for years.

"If you look at our history with Latin America, you could cast much of previous policy as imposing regime changes on the basis that if we don't act, bad things will happen. But to boldly declare such a policy, that's new," says Richard Stoll, professor of political science at Rice University.

Where the Truman-era doctrine of containment had fallen with the Berlin Wall, the Bush document makes a case for preemptive response when there is evidence of an "imminent threat."

At the same time, it details significant new development aid, including a 50 percent rise in US aid to countries that commit to economic freedom and pro-growth policies. The document also proposes a goal of doubling the size of the world's poorest economies within a decade.

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